We spoke with Steven Gao, GM of ZKTeco’s Middle East Business Department, to discuss market demands, regional trends and what the company has achieved so far.
With more demand in the Middle East market post-COVID, challenges related to internationalization, localized operation, supply chain management and risk and compliance arise, creating higher requirements for players in the Middle East security market.
For the Middle East security market, it has maintained a steady growth momentum in 2021. Although a return to the pre-epidemic state hasn’t been fully realized, the market segments represented by vertical industries such as smart cities and smart retail have begun to show urgent demand for digital transformation and upgrading.
With this come accompanying challenges and opportunities. As post-COVID Middle East market sees more demand, internationalization, localized operation, supply chain management, risk compliance and other challenges also arise, creating higher requirements for players in the Middle East security market.
To this end, we’ve spoken with representative enterprises in the Middle East security market. In these interviews, they share the latest in their respective industries, discuss industry trends, analyze and present future opportunities and challenges, and give peers a reference on market opportunities and enterprise strategic layout.
This time we spoke with Steven Gao, GM of ZKTeco’s Middle East Business Department.
Q: What is the strategic layout of ZKTeco in the Middle East market? What are your main businesses?
ZKTeco has been working in the Middle East market for many years, and has set up R&D, marketing, sales, maintenance, warehousing and logistics centers and other integrated full-chain service support capabilities in Dubai and other places. It has continuously deepened its localization efforts, including financial settlement localization, talent localization, product localization and service localization, so as to ensure that the company keeps a leading edge in the region. We always provide products and services around the core values of customers. Our main businesses include smart entrance and exit, smart office, smart identity verification and other businesses. Especially, the smart office business has been intensively localized for many years. In recent years, we’ve gradually expanded our business in the areas of cloud SAAS, intelligent Internet of Things (IOT), intelligent security, digital transformation and so on. According to the actual needs of users, we provide innovation, design products, and deliver service and value.
That said, our partners include agents, integrators and their subordinate installers, engineers and service provider customers. The business end users of our products and solutions include office SMEs, parks, factories, buildings, supermarket chains, hospitals, schools, commercial complexes and some potential user groups of government departments.
Q: What changes have taken place in the Middle East security market due to the impact of the supply chain crisis, COVID and geopolitical issues?
In the post-COVID era, with the gradual opening of overseas markets, countries in the Middle East have adopted active economic stimulus policies, which clearly results in the Middle East economy gradually recovering. The sales of ZKTeco in the Middle East are gradually warming up as well. In terms of international geopolitics, the Gulf countries have certain resource advantages. It’s safe to say that global investment and asset allocation regard the Middle East (such as Dubai) as a safe area, and this is good for the Middle East.
Q: Compared to other regional markets, what are the special needs of the Middle East security market?
The Middle East market is relatively concentrated in Dubai, Saudi Arabia and other places that put a key focus on political stability. In terms of investment, import and export trade, infrastructure construction, logistics distribution, livelihood projects and other aspects, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and other places are flourishing.
In recent years, the security market in the Middle East has also been thriving. The main demands are as follows. First, there are special requirements for products, such as high temperature resistance, due to special climate environment, and some outdoor products have higher requirements for product working temperature. The second has to do with the unique characteristics of the Middle East which not only has a high population but also has many construction sites. Because of the high temperature, the work and rest of outdoor infrastructure workers are different from those in other areas, so there will be special demands for the application of equipment.
In addition, due to the particularity of the regional culture, facial recognition applications in the Middle East market are full of challenges, even though people prefer contactless solutions post-COVID. In this regard, ZKTeco has launched palm vein recognition according to the characteristics of the local market.
Q: With the advent of smart security, what changes have taken place in the demand of overseas users for security products?
Take entry/exit as an example, we can see a technology evolution from traditional RFID to fingerprint identification to non-contact face identification to hybrid biometric technology applications.
There has also been a transition from single independent systems (such as access control, video surveillance, alarm and other independent systems) to all-in-one solutions.
Further, there’s a transition from pure CCTV video surveillance to behavior analysis, early warning notification and more intelligent self-learning development; from pure monitoring to a "people-oriented" concept around people's health, safety and convenience. This realizes the harmonious coexistence of man and nature, man and environment, and man and architecture.
Q: Digital upgrade has become the common demand of global users. What are ZKTeco’s new plans in this area?
A few years ago, the company established a global IOT R&D center in India aimed at developing Minerva IoT platform. Minerva IoT is ZKTeco’s globally unified Internet of Things platform, the core of which is to provide device connectivity and basic service capabilities. It also provides ZKTeco industry applications, developer applications, e-commerce platform, service platform, security platform and operation platform. It consists of 3 cores:
1. IOT platform and data lake: IOT platform is the platform that supports our business and through which the products of our ecosystem partners enter IoT. Our business innovation focuses on time management and entry/exit management. For other equipment required in the project, they are introduced by providing IoT access protocols to ecosystem partners.
2. Core business and ecosystem developers: We should focus on core business, cloud attendance, cloud access control, cloud visitors, cloud video, cloud visual intercom and other businesses to meet the needs of projects through innovative functions, attracting users to enter the Minerva IoT platform.
The platform also provides developer services to third parties. Developers can use the basic services, data and hardware resources of the platform to develop third-party applications and publish them through the application store of the platform. The sharing of core business data and ecosystem business data can jointly serve end users.
3. Service provider platform and e-commerce platform: For service partners, we provide service tools, e-commerce tools and data tools. These empower partners to carry out service derivation, business derivation and online e-commerce business.
Finally, by providing a one-stop purchasing and unified service experience to end users, we can promote the healthy development of the ecosystem.
Q: How do you view the Middle East security market in 2022? Are there any new business opportunities to share?
So far in 2022, in order to achieve better self-development, many Chinese enterprises have begun to enter the Middle East market. ZKTeco’s Middle East business has increased considerably compared with previous years, and the market is basically good. In particular, the smart entry/exit (security) business line is mainly derived from the integration of our Wanao Ruida security platform and a third-party local system, enriching project applications and expanding the original business to include, for example, access control + video + intrusion alarm and smart security + BMS system, which greatly enhances our influence and reputation in the Middle East security circle.
New business opportunities include smart POS, smart advertising and other businesses. The smart POS SAAS business with local partners in the Saudi market that we laid out earlier is seeing sales performance increase year by year. The business takes access control as the basis, is supplemented by POS SAAS business data integration, and has been an enabling force for tens of millions of shops, small stores, and even supermarkets. We find that this will be a huge market with abundant opportunities.
Q: From your own perspective, what do you think are the keywords for the global security market in 2022?
From an international perspective, I think they are “standard,” “integration” and “intelligence.” More and more people in the industry are discussing the issue of standard compliance, while market competition is no longer based on products, but on how enterprises can get through to other ecosystems, achieve connectivity and interaction, and realize a truly intelligent landing.
Q: What else would you like to add to this interview?
I would like to add that some changes in market demand, such as non-contact, social distance, safety and reliability, are taking place. In the post-COVID era, users' minds and habits have been cultivated, and new technology applications have emerged as a result. One example is mobile credentials, whose high security and non-contact characteristics have turned them into a rapidly developing emerging market. Internationally, our peers are also laying out products and solutions in this market. At present, our company, through the global R&D center in India, have developed and deployed the platform on which relevant hardware products designed by the Chinese team will be launched one after another.
The company plans to release products and applications in non-contact palm print recognition, enabling thousands of industries. In the industry, we see Amazon's unmanned supermarket, Tencent's palm payment method and so on, using non-contact palm print recognition technology to meet the security regulations of various countries, ensure personal privacy protection and achieve other core objectives.
In this sense, solutions built around biometric technology and enabling various scenarios and product applications will inevitably broaden the boundaries of new products, redefine biometric technology and deepen the understanding that it brings convenience and highly available security to human beings.